Okay, so I have many wine geeky activities!
This particular one, occurs monthly at our neighborhood wine bar. They have blind tastings the third Tuesday evening of the month. They present three white and three red wines, encased in brown paper bags. The fun part is figuring out what you’re drinking. To me, it’s a skill that has to be sharpened periodically. I don’t happen to be really good at it, so I’m usually up for the practice.
On this particular night, Peter was working, so I sidled up to the bar alone. I talked the couples on either side of me, while sipping and swirling. One couple have recently been married and come to Vino often. The other couple were probably enjoying a bite before a movie at the theater around the corner.
White wines in a blind tasting can have identifiable characteristics. You can’t see in this picture, but they list the three varietals or blends at the top of the page. (True blinds, with somms, don’t get this headstart). I have been somewhat successful blind tasting this way, but really need more practice to call myself an expert….but I digress. In this case, they were Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier.
You can get a lot from the nose. Floral, earth, wood…or as one of my classes taught me, F E W. If I can decipher these three elements in the nose, I can start to weed out the possibilities. In this case, Wine #1 had a lemony aroma to me. Bingo! Sauvignon Blanc. That is one of the true identifiers for Sauv Blanc. The first sip affirmed it. New Zealand SB smells like cat pee…this one was not from there.
The second one was floral and apple-y on the nose. The third was similar, but not as strident. Chenin isn’t a grape that I have very often, so I had to sip this one through. Viognier, to me, can run the gamut from clean/dry to cloyingly sweet. Wine #2 I found to be off-dry…not cloyingly so, and it didn’t seem to have the viscosity I’ve found in that type of Viognier (although you can tell by the picture, I certainly thought about it being a Viognier). Wine #3 was fairly dry and also clean, refreshing on the palate. I did eventually arrive at it being the Viognier, with #2 being the Chenin. Happily, I was correct on the whites. Not so much on the reds! (usually, I get the reds and switch two of the whites!)
First thing you notice is that it isn’t a true tasting, without a swirl getting out of hand and marking the paper! These three wines were Malbec, Barbera and a blend of Grenache/Syrah/Mazuelo. The colors of these three were different, so that was the place to begin. Wine #1 was the lightest, Wine #2 the darkest, with Wine #3 somewhere in the middle. Malbec has become a popular varietal. It’s a big grape with not very huge tannins. It’s easy to pair with meat, as there are a lot of them exporting from Argentina, along with their beef. Barbera is an Italian varietal, that is becoming more popular here in Washington. Grenache and Syrah are typical blending grapes for the Rhone (and similar climatic) regions. Mazuelo, on the other hand…came from out in left field! What the hell was that about?! Wine #1 was not only lighter, but fairly astringent for my palate. I decided it was the Barbera. Wine #2 was full bodied, deep, dark and had a round mouthfeel. Wine #3 was also full bodied, but with a distinctive grapiness. I know…that’s a strange description. I think of Welch’s Grape juice from when I was a child. My mother made it from frozen concentrate…blech! I hated it then. Now it’s not a bad characteristic for wine. As you can see, I went with the Malbec being Wine #2 and the blend, Wine #3. Malbecs don’t usually seem that grapey to me, I guessed it to be the Mazuelo with the Syrah. Alas, I was duped. The Malbec was Wine #3, with the blend being #2. Next time….
All in all, a wonderful evening tasting wine with good bread and olive oil!